Got a business or thinking of starting one?
Why not go green with your business set up! It can seem a little bit scary at first but implementing some sustainable business strategies doesn’t have to be difficult and you don’t have to do it all at once. Here are some tips you can take to make your business a little more eco minded.
What is sustainable business? What is sustainability? Let’s look at sustainability first. This is a VERY broad overview (I’ve written a week long course in ‘what is sustainability’ that will be launched with Eco Style Insiders in the near future), but the basic and most widely referenced definition of sustainability comes from the Brundtland Commission report and it’s focused on sustainable development. The definition of which is that:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainability has three elements or three ‘bottom lines’, the economy, society, and environment. Which in business looks a little like this:
- Economic profit- A sustainable business needs to be economically viable.
- Socially responsible- Being socially responsible is essential for sustainable business operations
- Environmental bottom lines- Sustainable businesses operate in a way that is environmentally responsible.
When you consider sustainable business development you need to remember that there are:
- Needs: Consumer and business needs, and social and environmental needs.
- Limitations: Business limitations, limitations to growth, and limitations of the environment, science and technology.
Why be a sustainable business? Well, other than giving you a sense of the warm-and-fuzzies sustainable business operations are important because they:
- engage the public in positive social and environmental actions
- inspires innovations, change, and cutting edge products and technology
- can help businesses become more efficient, less wasteful and save money
- can create new jobs and industry development
- creates leadership opportunities for business owners and inspired values-based consumers
Choosing to be a more sustainable business can be a little bit daunting. It can seem like there are more risks than financial benefits but small steps can really help you edge into sustainable business operations without damaging finances or business reputations.
Let’s have a look at some ways you can tackle business planning from a sustainable mindset.
Waste isn’t ideal and for many of us it can seem like an unavoidable part of doing business. However, sustainable businesses really need to consider the fact that waste of any kind represents a financial loss (an example may be when you have to throw away products), lost opportunity (an example may be throwing away fabric offcuts), or environmental degradation.
Cutting back on waste (or eliminating it altogether) makes good business sense for your bank balance, your customer relations, and the planet!
You can cut back on waste by:
- Assessing your waste stream. When you take stock of what’s coming out of your business you can immediately begin to make positive changes. A long time ago I spent a month collecting my personal waste and I was surprised how easy it was to cut right back on waste output when I was aware of what I was putting out. A very easy and cheap place to start making sustainable changes.
- Work out what waste can be avoided. When you assess the waste stream it’s good to work out where you can avoid making unnecessary waste (extra packaging, over ordering etc.), reduce the quantity of waste you create by rethinking the items you use or buy (like going digital, not printing emails, reducing tagging or packaging on products), recycling or up cycling items that can be recycled, handle waste as though it’s a commodity (because some of it is) and work out how you can dispose of it in a profitable and or responsible way (reclaiming and selling unwanted items or resources through recycling facilities).
- Let people know about your waste strategy. There is no point in having a sustainable waste mindset if you are the only person who knows about it! Let your colleagues know and tell your customers about your environmentally positive strategies and how they are saving the environment and money.
This can be the tricky, costly, and confusing area to consider because we often feel like transport is an area we don’t have control over. However, there are a variety of things that you can do on a scale from easy to challenging.
- Lease your ride: If you need a company car for transport purposes why not lease instead of own. If you choose to lease for long periods of time aim for a car that suits your needs. Do you need to get that big fuel guzzler or can you get away with a small hybrid?
- Drive smart: This might seem like cop out but you can get more miles from your car by asking for fuel-effienct options (tyres, hybrids), driving in a mindful and less aggressive manner, avoiding peak travel times and congestion, planning trips to achieve multiple tasks in one trip.
- To fly or not to fly? Flying is one of the least eco-friendly ways to travel and while international travel can expand our social understanding and compassion. It’s best to rethink before you fly. Can the business you want to conduct be done via email, phone, teleconference, Skype? Can you ship samples rather than send them by air?
- Supply chain consideration: Spend some time asking questions about how your materials get from one place to the next. Are they trucked, shipped, or flown? If you can, try to get your raw materials or products from place to place in the most eco friendly way. An ethically paid bike courier? Yes! Go for it. Choose to ship items instead and if you need to fly maximise the amount of things you get done in one trip.
- Small business? Why not walk to the post office to post your items. You can ride your bike to the shops instead. Live in a rural area? Perhaps you can find your own way to offset your travel by planting a plant when you come home from posting goodies. Be creative. Your actions don’t have to cost a fortune.
We all know that electricity and water are important parts of our business operations. While it’s the same stuff you hear OVER and OVER sustainability always stresses the importance of saving water and energy. This probably won’t be new info but a reminder is always great no matter your level of eco-awareness.
- Saving resources saves money: When you choose to be more aware of your water and energy use you save money. This is something many of us are aware of in daily life, but as a business you can highlight your money saving and earth saving cut backs to your customers. Great for your bank, great for the environment and wonderful for your brand identity.
- Make the switch to renewable energy: If you can afford it do it! Whether it’s an office, home, warehouse or simply getting a solar phone charger. Wind, hydro or other. Try to find a way to opt out of polluting energy if you can.
- Be thoughtful about your resource use: Buying energy and water efficient appliances is a good start. But if you think consciously about your actions instead then you can start to save energy and water overnight. Switch off taps, turn off devices. It really is that simple.
Whatever way you choose to adopt more sustainable businesses practices one of the best things about doing so is that you get to tell everyone about what you are doing. Being open and honest about your business improvements is empowering, liberating, and exciting. While you might not be able to afford to go all-out-fully-sustainable in one go, step by step you can make changes that benefit you, your production team, your customers, and the planet.